Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Political and Constitutional Reform, Alistair Carmichael MP, has welcomed the repeal last night of “English Votes for English Laws” (EVEL), but warned that deeper reform of democracy remains vital. EVEL, a system used since 2015 whereby “English-only” matters in Parliament could only be voted on by English MPs, aimed to address the lack of devolution in England relative to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but proved deeply divisive.
Mr Carmichael led the fight against EVEL in 2015, forcing an SO24 emergency debate on the matter against the government’s will.
Speaking in the House last night, the MP for Orkney and Shetland said:
“He has made reference a number of times now to powers that are being repatriated subsequent to our departure from the European Union. Does he not accept that when it comes to matters such as agricultural payments and fisheries management, we now have the highly unsatisfactory situation where the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, for example, acts as a UK and an English Ministry? Does he not think that that makes the case for devolution within England?”
Responding, the Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg MP said:
“There is a case for devolution within England, and that is part of the Government’s approach, but we are also a United Kingdom. It is important that we operate as a United Kingdom and ensure that powers are used where they will be most effective, and it is natural that most, though not all, powers that came back from the European Union should be used at United Kingdom level.”
Speaking after the motion was passed and EVEL was repealed, Mr Carmichael said:
“EVEL was a divisive and counterproductive step and its repeal is welcome. Ultimately the problem is not really any one parliamentary procedure but a system that is crying out for reform.
“People from across the UK feel that Parliament is too often too distant from their lives. We do not fix that either by applying arcane parliamentary procedures or by repealing them. We do it by making votes matter through more proportional elections, by empowering communities through giving power back from central government, and – ultimately – by treating the people of the UK not as subjects but as citizens.
“Such progressive changes may be beyond our current government. Unless we defeat the roots of the problems in our democracy, however, the “EVEL” in our politics will always come back to haunt us.”